Saudi minister says Umrah visa duration increased to 90 days for Pakistani pilgrims

Minister says more sites being opened in Makkah and Madina to promote religious tourism

Muslims perform Umrah at the Grand Mosque in Makkah after Saudi authorities ease COVID-19 restrictions on October 4, 2020. — Reuters
Muslims perform Umrah at the Grand Mosque in Makkah after Saudi authorities ease COVID-19 restrictions on October 4, 2020. — Reuters

  • Saudi minister ensures facilitation of Pakistan pilgrims.
  • 100 historical and religious sites to open in two holy cities.
  • Saudi govt making efforts to reduce Hajj expenses for pilgrims.

ISLAMABAD: Umrah visa for Pakistani pilgrims has been extended up to 90 days and more sites in Makkah and Madinah will be opened for pilgrims to promote religious tourism in Saudi Arabia, Dr Tawfiq Bin Fawzan Al Rabiah, the Saudi minister for Hajj and Umrah said.

Dr Tawfiq announced the Saudi government's decision during a joint press conference with caretaker Minister for Religious Affairs Aneeq Ahmed.

The pilgrims coming to Saudi Arabia from Pakistan will be facilitated during their religious pilgrimage, the minister said, while assuring a close working relationship between the Pakistani and Saudi authorities in this regard.

He added that another 100 historical and religious places are being opened in the two holy cities to promote religious tourism. Dr Tawfiq also spoke about Riyadh's efforts to reduce Hajj expenses for pilgrims, as both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy brotherly relations.

During his stay in Pakistan, the minister said he held discussions on many important issues, while civil aviation authorities of the two countries signed an agreement according to which the number of flights between the two countries would be increased.

His Pakistan counterpart demanded that Pakistanis above 65 years of age desiring to perform Hajj and Umrah be exempted from the biometric condition. He said he requested the provision of alternative sites for Pakistan Houses in Makkah and Madinah due to an extension in the premises of the two holy mosques.

Meanwhile, Dr Tawfiq also called on President Arif Alvi and caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar separately. Dr Alvi called for further strengthening bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia, especially in the realm of economy.

He said Pakistan highly valued its relations with the kingdom, which were based on common faith, shared history and people-to-people ties. Highlighting the key investment areas in IT, renewable energy, industrial and infrastructure development sectors of Pakistan, Dr Alvi emphasised the need to expand bilateral trade.

The president thanked Saudi Arabia for making excellent arrangements for Hajj this year and hoped it would expedite the purchase of Pakistan House in Madina from the compensation amount of two Pakistan Houses demolished.

He appreciated the kingdom for its steadfast support for important Muslim causes, especially the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, Palestine, and Afghanistan through the forum of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). He lauded the leadership of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for normalisation of relations with Iran.

Later, the Saudi minister called on the caretaker prime minister who welcomed the delegation and expressed satisfaction on the positive trajectory of bilateral relations with the kingdom. He lauded the vision of Mohammed Bin Salman and said Pakistan would always remain a trusted partner of Saudi Arabia.

He thanked the Saudi leadership for making excellent arrangements for Hujjaj (pilgrims) from all over the world during this year’s Hajj season, particularly Pakistanis.

He hoped that Pakistani Hajj and Umrah pilgrims would continue to receive special treatment from the Saudi side. He thanked Saudi Arabia for its interest in investment opportunities in Pakistan under the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC).